Grand Jury report critical of Tahoe jail
The Tahoe jail is in need of repair and new equipment, according to the El Dorado County Grand Jury report.
An unannounced on-site inspection in May revealed out-of-date equipment and security cameras that had been out of operation for six months, the report stated.
Sheriff’s Lt. Terri LeDoux, facility manager, agreed with many of the grand jury’s findings, and said some of the problem areas are either on the upcoming budget request or already funded.
“I have requested a maintenance person in the past, but there are some jobs that are highly specialized, and we’ll always need to contract out for,” she said. “We do have new computers that are Y2K compliant. We just haven’t changed over the equipment. And in the request for next year’s budget I’ve asked for new cameras. Things like cameras and radios are equipment that continually need to be updated. They are both a high use item.”
The grand jury found that the new computers should have been in place by the end of June, to allow at least six months to work out any problems before the New Year.
The jurors were also concerned about the kitchen staff’s lack of a personal alarm. On the day of their visit one female was supervising several male inmate helpers. LeDoux pointed out that only minimal risk inmates are allowed to work in the jail’s kitchen.
“I put the head of the kitchen in charge of finding personal alarms for the staff about a year ago,” LeDoux said. “I felt that should be her project.”
The kitchen manager was out of her office Wednesday and unavailable for comment. The jurors also felt that the kitchen staff should be trained in self-defense techniques, a finding LeDoux disagreed with.
“The kitchen staff is not to have any physical contact with the inmates. That is the responsibility of the corrections staff. That is why we looked into the personal alarms. Officers are always in close response distance to the kitchen,” she said.
The grand jury also found the jail lacked sufficient cells to house the different risk levels of prisoners. A problem LeDoux said is not special to Tahoe.
“Jails are full. It is a problem throughout the state, but we are presently looking into double bunking some of jail to help deal with it.”
The jurors also recommended providing separate men and women holding tanks for intoxicated individuals. Sheriff Hal Barker said, despite the lack of separate facilities, the jail’s policy is not to house men and women together. LeDoux said during the last budget year she submitted the project as a capital improvement.
“I believe it was approved, but construction has not begun,” LeDoux said.
The jury did give high marks to the jail’s new learning center for the inmates, and found the facility’s kitchen and laundry clean and organized.
Some the jury’s final recommendations included:
— Hiring a full-time repairman.
— Converting the computer system.
— Expanding the medical treatment room
— Placing cameras in the hallway adjacent to the kitchen that leads outside.
— Installing cameras in the interior exercise yard so the staff in the Pod Control Room could completely view them.
— Add sound capability to the camera and VCR system in the booking and intake areas.
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